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begun in may 1864, really before there was a cemetery. how did that happen? it happened that 1864, the war -- civil war had been going on for several years. in washington was really a hospital city at that time. there was as many as 50,000 soldiersnd sailors in the hospitals of washington, temporary hospital set up all over town. and of course, those people started dying and they had to be buried. so earlier in the war, the national cemeteries were established at alexandria, virginia and at the old soldiers home in northwest washington. they were planned to accommodate all of those who died in the washington area hospitals. what happened was that the war
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went on much longer and was much bloodier than anybody expect it so that we pretty soon filled up the graveyards, the national cemeteries in alexandria and at the old soldiers home in washington and needed new imperial space. so the quartermaster's office of the union army looked across the river and found this place, arlington, and thought it would be a good place to begin burying people. arlington happened to be the home of robert e. lee, the confederate general. so not only was it a convenient place to begin military burials for the civil war, it was also thought to be a matter of justice, maybe even vindication if you want to call it that. the first military burials at arlington came in may of 1864, well into the civil war and the
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very first of those burials was private from 67 pennsylvania infantry named william kristol wristband. she was from a poor family and he came to serve in the union army. unfortunately he ended up in the hospital in washington. he got a case of german measles, which killed many, many service members on both sides of the war. he developed peritonitis from his measles infection and he died in a washington hospital, was brought across the potomac river church of arlington as the first military burial. things were so desperate at that time in the civil war. there were so many people dying that there wasn't much time for ceremony or ritual at arlington. they would bring people over for burial day after day after day
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and they went into the ground, as william chrisman did with no flags flying, no music playing. all quite often without a chaplain and people for a sendoff. so basically they were just try to keep up with the carnage from the civil began. or in the war, things were so desperate that there wasn't any time for tombstones. they had headboards. they were made out of pine or walnut, painted white with black lettering. those of course had to be maintained or they fell apart so that in the years after the civil wars, the cleanup began to make sense of things. someone came up with the design in the 1870's, late 1870's early 1800's for the white marble
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tombstones you see at arlington today. its uniform design, anyone who qualified for burial here, qualified for one of these tombstones. the earliest stones were like the cc here, which have the name, the company, the state and the date of burial. and in incised shield. later the design is simple if i just include the name of the person, the date of birth and the date of burial. that's the modern tombstone you see in other sections of the cemetery today. the first military burial here, william chrisman was typical in that like many soldiers who died in the civil war on both sides, he wasn't killed by a bullet or a cannonball. he was killed by a disease. most of the people who died in the civil war died from
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infections, dysentery yellow fever, measles, mumps, battle wounds. many of the people we see in this section of the cemetery are in that category. william chrisman was buried in may, 1864. arlington cemetery was not established until a month later, june of 1864. he was officially designated a national cemetery and began to fill up very, very quickly. this part of the cemetery we are in, seven, was called the lower cemetery. as you can seecomments at the edge of arlington. there's a road to just outside the cemetery here. you can see the lee mansion from this location and that's the way the officers who were living and working in the lee mansion during the war wanted it. they didn't want to see the
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burials coming in. they didn't want to be living in a graveyard, working in a graveyard. they wanted the screens out of sight and out of mind. the quartermaster general, brigadier general montgomery makes did not like that idea. as a matter of fact, he did not have much use for robert e. lee. is there together in the union army. meigs considerably a traitor and thought he should be hanged for his desertion of the union army and his leadership of the army of northern virginia. so meigs came to arlington on the date was officially begun as a cemetery, june 16, 1864, came to this part of the cemetery, looked around and was upset that there were no graves around the lee mansion. so his next act was to go up there though, where we will go shortly, and begin to put
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aerials right up next to the mansion. he didn't want the least to be able to come back after the war was over. so you will see meigs's strategic approach to the creation of arlington cemetery up the hill and mrs. lee's garden. >> so we are now up on the hill overlooking washington d.c. at the lee mansion. and i'm aiming the camera at mrs. lee's garden. >> yes, this is mrs. lee's garden on the hill, the highest part in arlington national cemetery. this is the home of robert e. lee, mary custis late before the civil war. and at the height of the civil war, 1864, the first military burial was remained in the cemetery, the lower cemetery outside of the mansion. quartermaster general didn't think of the graves were close enough to the mansion, so that
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he found officers who have died in service and he had been buried here around mrs. lee's garden to make it more difficult for the lease to return to burlington after the war. >> so if we walk along here we see that these tombstones actually encircled the garden? >> yes, they didn't go the way around, but they form a border around part of the garden. i think they're something like at the end of the war there was something like 40 graves of officers. we don't know exactly what meigs we be thinking less but i suspect he chose to bury officers here rather than privates, you know, and enlisted men because the would make it more difficult to remove them after the war was over because they were more prominent and better known. it was a strategic move on meigs part and they proved pretty effective because by the end of
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the war, there were not only these graves here, but there were thousands of other graves in arlington animated very difficult for the lee family to return here. >> to the lee family attempt to return? he really attempted to return, but they wanted to get from arlington back and they worked for years. robert e. lee after the were quietly met with his lawyers in alexandria discussed with them a way to get arlington back. mrs. lee, who was more full set for us about it, went to congress after general lee died and petitioned congress to give arlington back and basically her petition was hooted out of congress. they thought it was a ridiculously idea. at that time, radical republicans were in charge. they didn't get very very good hearing. she died in 1873.
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their eldest son, custis late, went to congress, voted down, then went to court and by 1882 he won a famous case in the supreme court. supreme court ruled that arlington has been seized without just compensation during the war and gave arlington back to the lee family. it took a while but by 1883, the leaves had arlington back. of course the bad news for the leaves was there were 16,000 tunes here at the time. this was a practical matter, they couldn't come back to live here. so they settled with the government for fair market value, $150,000, 1100 acres of prime real estate and 16,000 tunes on the banks of the potomac river. the great irony is that when custis lease signed the estate
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over, the title over to the federal government mr. custis lee on one side signing the title. on the other side was robert todd lincoln so you have the son of lee and the son of lincoln agreeing on something and i would say that was the beginning of some hope that we could reunite north and south again. it took a whi but that was the beginning of the reunion. >> so we're going to walk back here to the first tomb of the unknowns soldiers. >> yes, one of the great tradition that arlington is honoring the unknown soldiers lost in the war. the first instance of that came just after the civil war when outtermaster general montgomery into the battlefields around washington within a 30-mile radius in washington to recover unknown soldiers from that war. they brought him here to this
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part of arlington. after the war, these teams recovered the dead, the unknowns from chaucer's spell, pennsylvania, the other great battlefield. and meigs had a huge pit dug here, despite an ad to bury in the mass grave in 1866. 2111 unknowns. here at arlington. this is at the edge, the end of mrs. lee's garden. so it's another instance of meigs, not only taken the opportunity to honor the war, but also to correct to bury her to the leaves returning to arlington. >> this is a portion of a booktv
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program. you can view the entire program and many other good tv programs online. go to the type the name of the author or book into the search area in the upper left-hand corner of the page. select the watch link. now you can view the entire program. you might also explore the recently on booktv box or the featured video box to find recent and featured programs.
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>> jim lehrer, what are you reading? >> i'm just now finishing dan brown's, the last demo, which i have been reading by listening to it on cd in the car. and in terms of the book i am reading, it's actually holding in
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